The word stillbirth is used to describe the loss of a pregnancy after the 20th week of pregnancy due to natural causes. According to a national statistic, stillbirths occur in nearly one in 200 pregnancies in the United States every year. To better understand stillbirths, and grief process involved, I have the honor of interviewing Ann Faison, author of “Dancing With the Midwives: A Memoir of Art and Grief.”
1. Most people don’t want to talk about still birth and yet you seem to have no problem with it. Why is that?
Ann: Often people choose to be private about the loss of a baby. There is a belief that talking about it will bring more pain, or prolong it when you should be “moving on.” For some there may be feelings of shame and guilt which are hard to face.
Because my mother died when I was young, I knew from experience that there was no advantage to avoiding grief. I dove into it and tried to express as much of it as I could, which is what became the book, Dancing with the Midwives. The act of creating, in my case writing and drawing, was the best thing I could do for myself.
Acknowledging the grief includes talking about it. My book is intended to inspire people to do that. To express it in a positive way.
2. You have talked about the negative effects of suppressing or repressing grief. What are they?
Ann: When my mother died we did not talk openly about our grief. That was simply the culture of the family I grew up in. I ended up with a severe eating disorder at sixteen followed by low self-esteem and depression that lasted through my twenties and mid-thirties. I can’t blame everything on suppressed grief. Yet I was able to break free from depression once I acknowledged the grief that was still there and started working with it, instead of pretending it was over.
When a baby dies, the impulse to silence and censor ourselves is strong. Many families are afraid that grieving openly will damage the other children. In fact, the opposite is true.